Wednesday, April 1, 2020

This is who I am: a 5-year plan at 74 becomes a 5-year Question (part 3)

Peace of Wild Things
Yesterday, it was suddenly clear. 
I don’t want a 5-year plan. I want a 5-year question.

I wanted a question that would be a living energy, constantly refocusing me on what I want my life to be and who I want to be.

You, dear reader, might be one of the many saying, 
“At 74 you don’t know?” 
And, I would have to say yes. 
I have clues. 
I have shadow shapes flitting about just out of sight.
Basically though, I’m just going along, taking things as they come.
Now, I’m ready to claim the rest of my life for myself:
Be who I am; serve the world in my own way,
Truly live my “one wild and precious life.” 
(With eternal gratitude to Mary Oliver.)

Yesterday ended with a question that I thought was close but no cigar. 
And where, pray tell, did that old saw about cigars come from?
Apparently in the 1900s, fairground stalls gave out cigars as prizes. 
People who failed to win prizes would be told:
Close, but no cigar.”

But, I digress. Here was the question that ended yesterday:
What do I want in my life and who do I have to be in order to create that life?

Good question but dead. Flat. Boring. That question sparked no reaction, so I signed off and turned to other things.

This morning dawned with one word: Delight. And, it delighted me, especially when I discovered the word play: de light. That’s what I wanted: to live in the light, be filled with light, to be guided by a beacon of light. To be deLighted.

I had been using the words bliss and joy … truly great words but they were not igniting my energy … suddenly with this word, it was like the light went on. Duh.

Before I went searching for a magical question, I had made a list of qualities I wanted in my life … an exercise most of us with any years behind us have done more than once. Apparently though, it’s one of those exercises that constantly change and is never done and finished. The seven qualities I listed, with no sense of priority, were:

Bliss … now changed to Delight
Relationship … now changed to Friendship

For each of these, I wrote a rather typical affirmation, and, then, following the thought that had intrigued me earlier in this journey, I also wrote a question designed to lead me forward and assume that I already have these qualities. I’m now calling them affirming questions. Here is an example:

    Delight: I am a lean, strong, hiking photographer always finding beauty and  being filled with abundant delight and joy.
??? Why am I always healthy, strong, and lean, able to hike through beauty and be filled with inner delight and joy as I capture the world around me with my camera?
Writing these affirming questions, pulled me toward the answer:  
Because, this is who I am! 

The first time I said those words, I could feel their power surge through my body. They made me feel taller, walk straighter. I recorded the series of affirmations and affirming questions and began to listen to and repeat them on my walks.

So, all of this … finally! … leads me to my 5-year defining question (one that defines and pulls me toward where I want to be):

How can I live my life in delight?

Now, it's time to go back to doingWhat do I do on this journey toward delight? 

After lengthy contemplation, I was delighted (!) when that answer came in four simple words which I think tie my entire life and being together. I don’t have to run a marathon, publish another book, show my art work in a gallery, or try to be Mother Theresa. If any or all of those things happen, that’s fine, but they aren’t critical to what will bring me closer to a life lived in delight. 
The four actions that are critical … for me … which could be considered my Action Model are:

Learn - Create - Connect - Share

The Test: To be useful, a 5-year plan (or question) should provide a guide through the challenges of life both big and small. Should I take this job or that? Should I read a murder mystery or organize my photos? Should I join the kids for movie night or avoid going out into the world in a time of pandemic? 
If we’ve crafted our defining question well, the answer should be clear … of course, we still have choice and, perhaps, we decide not to lean into the question for whatever reasons. However, we know we’ve deliberately made a choice and we can see what consequences are triggered by it.

With all of that in mind, I decide to test recent actions against this defining question and action model. What should I be doing about the state of the world, especially the political world in the United States? Should I pull away from social media?

My current action is to spend a significant amount of time on Twitter and Facebook, reading widely, supporting favored candidates, and donating modestly. 

What brings me delight in this process? stories of generosity and heroism, feeling more connected to the world, sharing the collective heartbreak and determination to live through an uncertain time, being part of the resistance to evil and greed, learning more about the world, creating art from my own experience and feelings.

What takes me out of delight? Seeing widespread fear and uncertainty being played out as hatred and divisiveness. Falling into the pattern myself of not being rational and kind. 

With this challenge at least, I think the process serves me. 
Please stay well and feed your spirit.
And, if you would like to see my ongoing "journal" about this time, Corona Curiosity is now in magazine format:  Click Here